Greek, US training ends with strengthened bonds
By Staff Sgt. Daryl Knee, 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
/ Published August 25, 2014
SOUDA BAY, Greece --
The two-week bilateral training between the Hellenic and U.S. air forces ended Aug. 23.
As the U.S. service members departed for their home station at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, the pilots reflected on the outcome of this peacetime training event.
"The Hellenic air force and the U.S. Air Force have their own way of doing business, and we are good at it," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. David Berkland, 480th Fighter Squadron commander. "But when you combine their air force with the way our air force operates, there are some limitations. Every day we get better at that interoperability piece, and both sides have seen significant improvements in our performance."
"Every day, we're working on interoperability," he emphasized. "It's absolutely essential to our ability to go to war with our coalition partners, and we train like this so that on day one of a conflict, we've already worked out a lot of these interoperability issues."
The U.S. air force launched nearly 200 individual sorties throughout this two-week period, each with a specific mission of enhancing the military compatibility between the two nations. The mission objectives required both air forces to integrate and prove their capabilities in air-to-air and air-to-surface combat, a multi-role to which the F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter aircraft is geared.
"For us, it's really neat to be able to come here and train with the 343rd and 340th Fighter Squadrons because they also fly the F-16," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Kyle Davis, 480th FS pilot. "They bring different things to the fight than we do even though we fly the same jet. So we may be strong in certain areas, but they're strong in others. So training together with them, we really got to promote our own strengths and also fill in each others' weaknesses, and truly build a stronger fighting force together."
Greece is a longstanding NATO ally and has supported many joint objectives throughout the years. The country has promoted Balkan stability and economic development, and contributes forces to both the NATO International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and United Nations peacekeeping missions. Greece leadership has also provided the U.S. with access to the region to operate key military installations, such as the Naval Support Activity Souda Bay, a combined airfield and seaport facility that is the largest deepwater port in the eastern Mediterranean.
With the conclusion of this joint training, the Hellenic air force leadership feels they are demonstrating their commitment to a peaceful, stable and secure Europe.
"I think everything went well," said Hellenic air force Lt. Col. Michail Tsikalakis, 343rd FS commander. "Greece and the United States are proven partners with a long military relationship. It's strong, I think, and based on common values of democracy and freedom. We've had many (cooperation events) throughout the years, and we're looking to future challenges, training how we fight.
"We are confident to fly with the U.S. pilots now," he continued. "We have common training and common procedures. We see in the air that it works, and we're ready to fly and fight in a war together."
Davis said U.S. fighter squadrons in Europe have a unique chance to work with coalition partners who desire to train together. And as the Defense Department continues to operate in a fiscally constrained environment, it is even more important to take the opportunities when they are available.
"Because when it comes down to it, we need to be able to work with our partner nations to be able to provide an effective force no matter what type of engagements we find ourselves in," he said. "We're not going to do it by ourselves; we're going to do it with the Greek air force. We're going to partner with some of the other countries that surround us. And so flying with them proves the point that we can do it, but it also really helps us understand how to do it better in the future and make the total package of coalition partners a much more lethal fighting force."
The Aug. 23 date may have marked the end of face-to-face training; however, both countries aim to meet or exceed the NATO standard of operations. Collectively, this European partnership will continue to provide security, protect global interests and bolster economic bonds.